Sworn in as governor, Green commits to housing initiatives and 'regressive' tax cutting
Standing before a crowd at the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena, Gov. Josh Green rose to the state’s highest office.
During his inaugural address, Green took note of the broad disparity across the state, committing to initiatives to cut the burdens of the high cost of living throughout the state and finding ways to increase housing.
Green, the state's ninth governor, spoke of how his early years as a clinic physician on Hawaiʻi Island taught him of the state’s resiliency.
"The people of Naʻalehu, Ocean View, Punaluʻu, South Kona, Volcano took me into their hearts, they took me into their lives and they taught me the true meaning of aloha," Green said Monday afternoon. "I learned how people in Hawaiʻi take care of one another. I saw how our local families, communities, churches, how they all reach out to people who need our help, and how we all try to lift people up whenever we can."
While serving as lieutenant governor under the former Gov. David Ige these last four years, Green focused on public housing. The Kauhale Initiative, which provided tiny houses to those facing homelessness, began a flagship of Green's term.
To tackle the state’s ongoing housing crisis, he plans to "bring public officials together with private developers and philanthropists, and build thousands of new homes for Hawaiʻi's families."
On top of that, he said there's a need to eliminate illegal vacation rentals to free up the local housing market.
"With willing determination, we'll also do another thing, we'll turn the thousands of illegal Airbnbs into affordable rentals so our regular people can just afford to live in our communities," Green said.
To tackle the state’s high costs of living, Green said he plans to ask the state Legislature to consider removing the state’s general excise taxes on food and medication.
"We dealt with the worst global pandemic in a century better than anyone else, but we're still witnessing an epidemic of poverty and injustice in our own backyard," Green said. "With the Legislature's help, I would like to end and eliminate the regressive taxes that exist in our midst like the tax on food and medication."
In 2018, 42% of the state's households struggled to make ends meet, with 33% as households that earn above the federal minimum wage but not enough to afford basic household necessities.
Alongside Green is Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke, who fought a tough primary election for the nomination. A former state representative for District 25, Luke previously served in the influential position of House Finance Chair.
"In order for us to meet our kuleana, our responsibility as public servants, the governor and the lieutenant governor need to work with the state Legislature with input from our communities to drive the change we need," she said Monday.
Her first initiatives will focus on universal preschool, with the building of new or refurbished classrooms.
"As a working mother, I know firsthand the importance of access to high-quality preschool and child care," she said. "We all want our children to enter kindergarten prepared to succeed. But this urgent need goes beyond educational equity. It is a cost of living issue for so many of us who cannot afford steep tuitions for the few coveted preschool seats."